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Wednesday, 17 February 1971

Senator WRIGHT (Tasmania) (Minister for Works) - The Senate has been debating for the last 2 or 3 hours a motion which has been drawn up most thoughtfully by my colleague Senator Greenwood for the purpose of giving honourable senators an opportunity to affirm the Australian Government's policy for Papua and New Guinea. Senator Greenwood's motion contains these words: - of not imposing upon the people of the Territory of Papua and New Guinea self government or independence contrary to the freely expressed wishes of the people through their parliamentary representatives.

I have emphasised those words because the Leader of the Opposition in the Senate (Senator Murphy) sought to amend them. Instead of affirming that we will not impose self government and independence upon the people of the Territory contrary to their freely expressed wishes through their parliamentary representatives, Senator Murphy sought to introduce an amendment. It is now on the record as the expression of his opinion that independence and self government should be accorded to the peoples of Papua and New

Guinea upon a decision of the United Nations and at a time decided by that body.

The Australian Labor Party has fallen into a fundamental trap of self-persuasion. In this instance it has lent itself to denigrating this country's achievements over the last 50 years. (Quorum formed) When the attention of the House was drawn to the numbers who had remained in the chamber for this debate, 7 members of the ALP were present. It was their Party Whip who drew attention to the fact. I was trying to examine a question of some importance without heat and without roar but Senator Poke has intervened and sought to enforce his intervention by a continuous roaring. I was saying that the Labor Party had sought to emphasise its denigration of this country's remarkable achievements over the last half century in bringing the Territory to the stage of development that it has reached.

Senator Greenwoodhas moved his motion because of the untimely and most unwise intervention of the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam) in Papua and New Guinea, not only in the last parliamentary recess but also in the previous year. Senator Cant has reminded us tonight that the Leader of the Opposition asserted that, if he were to become Leader of the Government of this country, Australia would ensure that there was self government in the Territory in 1972 and independence for the Territory in 1976. These are the issues that we ought to be debating in the most careful terms because, for good or ill, people in the Territory in increasing numbers are taking careful note of the opinions expressed in this Parliament. They do so because they still attribute some responsibility to those opinions.

I believe that the statements of the Leader of the Opposition on Papua and New Guinea, supported today in this chamber, are an arrogant interference which shows contempt for the capacity and ability of the people of the Territory in their own time to develop to a situation where they will decide when they will take self government and independence, lt is greatly lo be regretted that Mr. Whitlam's intervention cannot be divorced from the feeling that he sought a diversion from his troubles with the Victorian Labor Party

Executive and his futile intervention in the New South Wales Branch of his Party. It seems that be sought to get an audience who would provide more plaudits for him than he receives at the average Labor Executive or community meeting.

It is greatly to be deplored that the Leader of the alternative government should go to the Territory to debate his divisive policies and that he should not endeavour, for Australia's prestige and the advancement of the Territory, to follow the tradition in which mcn in public life in this country give expression to viewpoints in respect of the Territory with as much bipartisanship as possible. It was made quite clear by the Prime Minister (Mr Gorton), when he visited the Territory in July last year, that the very plain policy of the Australian Government is to fall in with any requests that come from the Territory to give its people self-government or independence when those people freely express their wish to have either stage of development; neither before that time, at the insistence of a militant minority, nor later, in accordance with the accusation that there is interest in Australia's deferring those opportunities for the people of the Territory. That is our policy. In the light of Mr Whitlam's intervention Senator Greenwood wishes that we clear the matter and affirm that policy. Tonight the Opposition has said that it will vote against affirmation of that policy. I therefore propose to ask the Senate to allow sufficient time in this debate for a vote to be t;i ken. 1 want to examine our position as trustee of the Territory. Senator Sir Magnus Cormack has most emphatically drawn the Senate's attention to the terms of our trusteeship. They exist in Article 76 of the Charter of the United Nations, and are:

(b)   To promote the political, economic, social and educational advancement of the inhabitants of the trust territories, and their progressive development towards self-government or independence as may be appropriate to the particular circumstances of each territory and its peoples and the freely expressed wishes of the peoples concerned. . . .

In respect of Australia's appointment to the trusteeship by the United Nations Senator Murphy fell into a very deep hole of misunderstanding and said that we are therefore trustees of the United Nations. We were appointed by the United Nations but we are trustees of the people of the Territory, for their advancement in a cultural and educational manner and their progressive development towards selfgovernment and independence. We are bound to exercise that trust in accordance with the agreement of the trusteeship. Under that agreement the Government is designated as the sole authority which will exercise the administration of the Territory. The agreement says that Australia shall apply such of its laws to the Tet.ri. tory as it thinks appropriate and, specifically, Article 8 of the agreement says that Australia will, in accordance with established policy, promote, as may be appropriate to the circumstances of the Territory, the educational arid- cultural advancement of the inhabitants; assure to the. inhabitants of the Territory, as may be appropriate to the particular circumstances of the Territory and its people, a progressively increasing share in the ' administration and other services of the Territory; and guarantee to the inhabitants of the Territory, subject only to the requirements of public order, freedom of speech, of the Press, of assembly and of. petition^ freedom of conscience, freedom- of worship and- freedom of religious teaching. That is the trust that we accepted.

How have we exercised that trust? The steps by which' Australia has given to the people of the Territory over the years advancing opportunities for self expression in the administration of their affairs and legislation for their government is clearly to be seen from ' the first step that was taken some 12 or 14 years ago to establish representative government.' The next step was to enlarge the area of representation. The House of Assembly now consists of 84 elected representatives and 10 nominated representatives.- Last July the Prime Minister made a significant' statement in which he- said that legislative authority having been exercised with such credit to the local Assembly, we had come to the conclusionthat the responsibilities and authority of the local Administrator's Executive Council should bc extended and that it should be responsible only to the indigenous elected members of that - Assembly, that it should take sole responsibility for educational matters, public health, tourism, cooperatives, -business advisory services, workers compensation, industrial training, posts and telegraphs and other matters, reserving to Australia responsibility in matters of external security, enforcement of law and order, the judiciary, defence and matters of that sort, I do not wish to repeat the complete statement of the position.

It has been said that we have done nothing to prosper the economic position of the Territory. The Senate was reminded by the impressive speech by Senator McManus of the prerequisites that most thinking people would require before independence was taken. He said that the responsibilities of economic viability were foremost. Yet Senator Cant asks what we have done, and Senator Keeffe says that we have arrogated economic interests to ourselves. In this connection I shall refer to two instances only. The vote for Papua and New Guinea in the Australian Budget last year was a total of SI 26.1m.

Senator Sir Magnus Cormack - That was a direct vote. .

Senator WRIGHT - Yes, a direct vote of % 1 26.1m. At Bougainville, which I refer to as a specific example, a project has been developed by a company which has found mineral wealth, erected a structure and begun mining in the area. At Bougainville that company will employ 4,000 indigenes during the construction stage, and during the production stage in 1972-73 will employ 2,500 indigenes, increasing to possibly 4,000 indigenes by 1981. Tn Bougainville we have a situation where the Administration -will receive revenue from taxation, royalties and dividends in excess of $400m in 10 years and where the company taxation which will be payable will be not 471 .per cent as in Australia but 60 per cent of whatever net profit is left to the company. In Bougainville, that company has specifically undertaken a training programme for indigenous employees, the programme to cost $500,000 every year. Yet we hear the catch cry of old colonialism,imputing that we are not advancing the constitutional structure and the economic well-being of this area to the great advan.tage of the local inhabitants.

Every effort that we have put forward has been towards giving local representatives ' in New Guinea and their Parliament the opportunity to make their own decisions in this respect. They have not been thoughtless in the matter. In fact we have all met personally and socially delegations to this Parliament, when they have been free to express their appreciation or disapproval, as they wished, of the efforts that were being offered by Australia to enable them to make a judgment on these matters. Never once have I heard from any member of those delegations anything but appreciation of the increasing experience that is enabling them to make their own judgments. Indeed, the chairman of the Select Committee on Constitutional Development made a report to the Parliament of New Guinea a few months ago to the effect that in the opinion of the Committee the majority of the peoples of Papua and New Guinea did not wish them to accept independence. The Parliament at Port Moresby carried a unanimous resolution that the Committee should again tour the whole Territory to ascertain beyond doubt, if possible, what the viewpoint was. At that time the House of Assembly affirmed that independence and self government would be taken by the Territory only upon a resolution of representatives in that Parliament. But then, to trump all that and to run counter to that resolution of the House of Assembly, Senator Murphy said - -

Senator Georges - I rise to order. I was under the impression that as I am listed to speak in this debate the Minister's time must have expired. Is it a deliberate intention on his part to deny me the right to speak.

Senator WRIGHT - There is no point of order.

The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Davidson) - Order!

Senator Georges - Am I to be denied the right to speak in the debate tonight? I was under the impression that time for this debate would expire at 9.25 p.m. I am listed to speak in the debate. The Minister has spoken for more than 18 minutes and it seems to me that it is his deliberate intention to deny me the right to speak in this debate.

The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT Order! Senator Wright is the first Minister to speak in this debate and, as such, is entitled to speak for 30 minutes. As the honourable senator has indicated, he has spoken for 18 minutes only and so his time has not expired. There is no substance in the point of order.

Senator WRIGHT - Let it be remembered that the Leader of the Opposition was not entitled under the Standing Orders to speak for 30 minutes, but I proposed and the Senate accepted a motion that he be given that much time, and he used it. But now we have from behind the Leader of the Opposition an individual who comes in like a poodle and raises a point of order. Senator Murphy relies upon a resolution from the United Nations of 14th December 1970 which he has misconstrued. He says that that- body called upon Australia to prescribe a specific timetable. lt did not. It said that Australia should prescribe, in consultation with the freely elected representatives of the people, a specific timetable. The freely elected representatives of the people have insisted that they are not yet ready to prescribe a specific timetable. They are engaged in a select committee at the present time and are going to make another investigation throughout the Territory early this year. They expect great things to come by the end of the year. But the Australian Government, keeping constantly in consultation with those people, will make the decision that they request as to independence and self government according to the freely expressed wishes of the people.

So, Mr Acting Deputy President, the issue is whether or not this Senate is of the opinion that the policy of' the Australian Government is correct in not imposing upon the people of the Territory self government or independence contary to the freely expressed wishes of the people, and the Leader of the Opposition, Senator Murphy has invited us to give the Senate the opportunity of voting on the matter. I see that there are about" 7 minutes of my time to be exhausted and I can take up that time by speaking if I wish. However I now offer that to the Senate for a vote to be taken if honourable senators will agree with this motion that I put. which is:

That the question now be put.

Senator Georges - Well, I object. I raise a point of order. The point of order is that the Minister has spoken-

Senator Sir Magnus Cormack - I take a point of order.

Senator Georges - ! have - the point of order.

The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Davidson); - Order! . .

Senator Sir ' Magnus Cormack - The

Minister has moved that .the question be now put.

Senator Georges - -T' have the .point of order. I question the right of the Minister who has spoken for 20 minutes' - -

The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT - Order! This matter was dealt with earlier. The reason for the Minister having 30 minutes at his disposal Was explained and he has moved that, the question be now put. Please resume your seat.

Senator Georges - I insist that the point of order I now raise is different from the one I raised previously. The Minister spoke for 20-odd minutes. Having put his case he then moved the gag in such a fashion as- to deny me the opportunity of speaking for 3 minutes. I say that if I had 3 minutes in which to speak I could demolish his- arguments.

The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT - Order! Senator Georges, you will resume your seat.




Question resolved in the affirmative.

Original question put:

That the motion (Senator Greenwood's) be agreed to.

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